Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My New Toolbox, Part 2

Therapeutic parenting is a whole different ballgame from the parenting style that most of us know. We've been forced to examine deep within ourselves to determine why we do the things we do. We've had to pitch all the ineffective ideas and start over with new skills. My last post listed some of my new parenting tools. This is a continuation of that list. This is what works for us.

  • Treat the Whole Child
There is no doubt that adopted kids are a puzzle. We don't always know where behaviors are coming from. We try to study our kids to figure out what's going on. We have sought out specialists in attachment/trauma, sensory, hearing, reading, ESL, and speech therapy. If Cupcake comes home from school irritable, I have several things run through my mind.

It may be nutritional. - She might be hungry.
It may be emotional. - Maybe she was embarrassed at school.
It may be attachment. - Maybe I gave her a look that shook her to the core.
It may be physical. - She may be coming down with a cold.
It may be sensory. - She may need some rough-housing.

All of these things come into play, and it takes more wisdom than I have to figure this out. But if I always keep these things in mind, it helps to keep things in perspective.

For instance, her teacher wants her to read every night. I'm all for reading. I am excited about the progress she's making with it. BUT, if she is an emotional wreck, I must work on getting her back into regulation before we can even attempt to read. Some nights, we just don't read.
  • Constant Reassurance
When things are going well, we remind Cupcake that we love her and are family forever. When we see the downward spiral, we remind Cupcake that no matter what, we will still be her parents, that she is lovable, and that she is a good girl. Over and over and over and over. We remind her of all the good things we've done for her, because we love her. In fact, it's a game we play. I'll ask in a playful voice, "Why did I give you ice cream last night?" She answers, "Because you love me." When she's in that not-so-good place emotionally, I will play this game and remind her of all the things I did just today to show her my love.
  • Giving Voice
Cupcake has a story. It's not pretty. She needs to tell it. Telling our story brings healing. (Remember the first time you had a baby or lived through a traumatic experience. The first person you told your story to probably got every gory detail. By the hundredth person, you were able to just give the highlights.) Letting her tell her story through play therapy is SO good for her. She has worked through some really tough stuff in the "play room" where we pretend whatever is on her mind. We do not edit the story, even if we believe parts are not true. Just being heard is healing.

We give her voice through her words. When she asks for something, we try to immediately meet her needs. Every time we do that, it speaks to her heart, "Your needs matter to me. I will meet your needs. Your voice is a powerful tool to express yourself." Sometimes Cupcake expresses her feelings with behavior. If I have the presence of mind to do this, I will say, "Wow! You seem to be really mad. I wonder if you are really ________? (worried about Daddy's trip next week, embarrassed about what happened at school, jealous of your sister's new shoes, etc) This helps teach her to express her feelings more exactly (and less physically).
  • "I'm Listening"
This follows giving voice. Saying, "I'm listening," then shutting up is powerful good stuff. That part about shutting up is the hard part for me. I'm a born teacher and I want to get my lesson in. :-) Just listen.
  • "Do You Trust Me?"
When I see the beginnings of a meltdown, if I can make eye contact and ask this question, I can head it off before it ramps up. Sometimes she just needs to remember that we're a trustworthy bunch of people. Sometimes, she's doesn't trust me and she says so. Then I remind her that she can trust me. I'm a good mom. I will take care of her needs. I know what's best.

  • Prayer
I can't emphasize enough the need to go to the Lord on behalf of my kids. This is especially true when we are in total meltdown. I ask God to calm her heart with His Spirit and remind her of our love, to reach into the depths that I cannot reach and give her Life and Hope. In the carpool line on the way to school, I pray that God would bless her and help her to be kind and obedient. I ask God to help her hear the teacher and listen carefully. In my quiet time, I ask God to make my girls really love (and like) each other. I pray for her heart to be open to the love of Jesus and for God to heal all the broken places. At bedtime, I thank the Lord for giving me such a wonderful daughter. (I also pray for my wisdom, patience, endurance and for my own heart to be soft and teachable.)

These things don't even seem like "effective disciplinary techniques" because their not. They are connecting strategies. When a child feels safe, loved and connected, the correction is easy (or easier, anyway).

More to come.

Blessings to you,


DFNY said...

I love these, J. Is it possible to cut and paste the posts so I can then print them out? I will definitely be using these tools. So much of what you write about Cupcake describes N. as well. I read your previous post of ineffective tools and it seems so obvious that they wouldn't work--so why have I used them? I look forward to incorporating these new tools you so generously shared with us. Thank you!

Mamita J said...


If you highlight the post and go to "file" on your browser, click on "print" and then select "print selection". That should do it. (I hope.)

Kim said...

You are so wise girl...wish I had learned so many of these things years ago. Hope I can put some of them into practice moving forward. I keep forgetting to ask you if I sent you the blog of "my story"? Let me know.

SLB said...

just in time, something happened between me and my son and we haven't really talk about it, he says sorry but i want to talk to him more about it. I am trying to get away from being a screaming mom ( i do it when i am really hurt to shut them off) and i know it is not working because i am pushing them away. I will email you the details later.